There are many important ethical reasons for eating less meat. For one, rearing animals for meat simply isn’t sustainable; livestock use up many more calories in being fed than they produce in the form of meat.
The impact of farming for meat on the environment is also extreme; livestock herds account for around 10% of the Earth’s greenhouse gas emissions as well as widespread deforestation, not to mention high levels of ammonia and nitrate pollution from animal waste.
If we bring to this picture inhumane farming practises – where animals are kept in shocking conditions and killed cruelly – and the question of whether it is ever even right to take the life of a sentient creature, we have a pretty compelling list of reasons to stop eating meat and other animal products right now.
It’s just that actually doing it is a lot harder than saying it.
Some people become aware of arguments for eating less meat and roll with them, cutting out animals all together. They’re creative cooks, have healthy hearts and are nailing this ethical business.
Then you have people like me.
I’ve been a vegetarian for 5 years, and I still struggle.
I really do think it’s wrong to eat animals. I know more great vegetarian recipes than meat ones. I feel better for not eating meat, and it saves me money. But I still occasionally break down and end up buying a burger.
Fellow strugglers, this post is for you.
People often think it’s a good idea to tell people something is easy if they want them to try it. It’s encouraging to say:
‘Of course you can do it, it’s easy!’
It’s reassuring to say:
‘It’s a lot easier than you think, don’t worry!’
And for some people, going all out vegetarian or vegan is easy, a marvellous revelation that changes their life for good. But for others it isn’t easy, and all that talk of just how easy it is brings one thing – shame.
Shame is neither encouraging nor reassuring. Shame is a feeling of failure. Of course, there’s an easy way to stop failing.
People who are failing at keeping their commitments to veganism or vegetarianism tend to just….give it up…completely.
Listen. It doesn’t have to be this way. For me, giving up meat was hard. It still is hard.
The important thing is that I don’t give up. I’m vegetarian 95% of the time, and as guilty as I feel about my occasional meat eating, those are still pretty good odds.
I’m not saying stop caring. Be critical about what you are doing and whether you could achieve more. Push yourself. Just don’t be ashamed of finding it hard.
Everything worth doing is hard.
It would be a real pity to throw away a lifetime of dramatically reducing your meat intake just because you couldn’t fully commit to being 100% vegetarian.
Obviously, this is a balancing act, and involves being brutally honest with yourself (which isn’t easy either).
Could you be doing more?
Are you giving yourself enough of a break?
You could consider reducing your meat intake, or only buying ethically reared meat. Meat free Mondays are a fantastic idea. All these options are great. So is being vegetarian or vegan.
I may not be a perfect vegetarian, but I am doing a lot better than I could be. And that spurs me on, rather than making me want to give up.
Do what you can, push yourself as hard as you can. Just don’t be ashamed of admitting to yourself that it’s hard.
It is hard – and I believe in you.